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Volume 10, No.1 

May, 2020

Editorial

We begin this issue with an article from Adrian Udenze and Marwan Elfallah. The authors propose a framework for teaching programming to aid teachers and pupil progress. In their study, PRIMM, a state-of-the-art framework, was implemented in two Year 9 classes of a comprehensive school in England. Results presented show that when it comes to solving problems, PRIMM performs well for simple single-statement problems but fails for more complex multi-statement problems. The National Curriculum for Computing in England expects that primary-school-aged pupils (5- to 11-year-olds) will be able to correct programming errors in age-appropriate contexts (DfE) 2013). Utilising a broadly auto-ethnographic approach, Gurmit Uppal’s paper draws upon the writer’s positionality as a computing teacher in primary school and as a teacher educator in a university-based setting. Reflecting upon experiences of teaching computing (specifically debugging) to primary school pupils, the paper goes on to outline and explore potential reasons for pupils’ lack of perseverance and autonomy when engaged with debugging activities. The author’s reflective process concludes with suggestions to further develop pupils’ independence with debugging activities, as well as considering the importance of teacher educators’ own practice-based experiences to share with new teachers. 

Inequality of outcome has become one of the most pressing issues in education. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the performance of disadvantaged students. However, despite increased support, no school in England or Wales has managed to consistently close the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. In an article by Faizaan Ahmed, the author argues that the attainment gap as it is currently calculated is ineffective in identifying the locus of underperformance, the specific needs of disadvantaged students and the support needed to improve outcomes. This article addresses this by discussing a pilot project focused on identifying and addressing disadvantaged students’ needs and the challenges and opportunities this raises. 

Alison Baker’s article is an account of PhD fieldwork carried out in a school in East Sussex, in the south of England, with a group of 10- and 11-year-old children, to discover whether they perceive social class in a selection of children’s fantasy fiction texts. The author’s initial findings indicates that children do perceive power imbalances, including those of social class, in children’s literature. The focus of Vivienne Eka’s enquiry is to support the development of subject literacy to enhance subject knowledge and understanding of key concepts in geography. In her article, the author considers through action research how developing subject literacy in secondary school geography lessons can enhance pupil’s subject knowledge and the understanding of key concepts in Geography. 

In Liz Taylor’s thought provoking article she argues that in the higher education sector, it is imperative that lessons are revisited to ensure that the methods of teaching applied are flexible and develop positively (Schön 1983), in conjunction with the student’s complex needs, helping to achieve academic praxis for both learners: the teacher and the student (Brookfield 2017). From the perspective of an early career academic, Taylor’s describes her investigation and critical self-analysis of the process of reflection and teaching. Micky Levoguer, Ben Taylor and Rebecca Crutchley, in their article, present findings from a small-scale qualitative case study exploring how engagement with seminars might prompt a sense of community amongst students. Further, it considered if such engagement might afford students ‘seminar capital’, a form of academic social capital (Bourdieu 1977 in Preece 2010). The study also uncovers how seminar pedagogy can support students to develop their academic voice and connect with others in learning communities. Laura Warner and Jade Schwarz’s article considers the scope of initial teacher training (ITT) programmes at UK universities and the extent to which they prepare teachers to empower learners outside of mainstream, compulsory schooling. The authors compare attitudes towards school education and prison education, examining the potential for greater cohesion and the importance of rehabilitation. The article concludes by discussing the potential for future, more inclusive ITT programmes. 

Our guest writer in this edition is Professor Ann MacPhail. Ann is Assistant Dean Research in the Faculty of Education and Health Sciences and a member of the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Framed within the current Covid-19 pandemic, MacPhail in her article, argues that this crisis has serious implications for all education systems and requires critical engagement from teachers and teacher educators. The author shares, with the reader, the extent to which the Covid-19 pandemic has already reinforced or challenged, and continues to do so, her notion of what it means to be an effective initial teacher educator. 

This number’s book reviews are provided by Andrew Colley and Stephen Palmer.

As always we hope that you enjoy the collection of articles in this issue of the periodical. 

Gerry Czerniawski
Page 5

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Articles

Abstract:

The drive to teach programming across Key Stages 1–4 in UK schools has resulted in computer science teachers without computer science degrees. Many of these teachers find it difficult to teach an abstract concept like programming to children. The work presented here proposes a framework for teaching programming to aid teachers and pupil progress. PRIMM, a state-of-the-art framework, was implemented in two Year 9 classes of a comprehensive school in England. Results presented show that when it comes to solving problems, PRIMM performs well for simple single-statement problems but fails for more complex multi-statement problems. PRIDAM improves on PRIMM by introducing problem Decomposition and Arrangement which makes it more suitable for more complex multi-statement problems. The authors conclude that whereas the PRIMM framework is suitable for introducing concepts, PRIDAM is suitable both for introducing concepts and solving programming problems.

Key words:

Teaching programming; Teaching Computer Science; Programming framework

Adrian Udenze and Marwan Elfallah
University of East London

Pages 6-10

 

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Abstract:

The National Curriculum for Computing in England expects that primary-school-aged pupils (5- to 11-year-olds) will be able to correct programming errors in age-appropriate contexts (DfE) 2013). This correction of errors in computing is known as debugging. Utilising a broadly autoethnographic approach, this paper draws upon the writer’s positionality as a computing teacher in primary school and as a teacher educator in a university-based setting. Reflecting upon experiences of teaching computing (specifically debugging) to primary school pupils, the paper goes on to outline and explore potential reasons for pupils’ lack of perseverance and autonomy when engaged with debugging activities. Ideas around learnt helplessness and cognitive load theory are analysed as potential barriers to pupils’ progress when it comes to debugging. The reflective process concludes with suggestions to further develop pupils’ independence with debugging activities, as well as considering the importance of teacher educators’ own practice-based experiences to share with new teachers.

Key words:

Computing; Debugging; Autoethnography; Learnt helplessness; Cognitive load theory; Teacher education

Gurmit Uppal
University of East London

Pages 12-16

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Abstract:

Inequality of outcome has become one of the most pressing issues in education. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the performance of disadvantaged students. However, despite increased support, no school in England or Wales has managed to consistently close the attainment gap between disadvantaged students and their peers. This raises many questions, none more important than: is there an error in how we measure the performance of disadvantaged students? Furthermore, what are the implications of such a potential error? This paper argues that the attainment gap as it is currently calculated is ineffective in identifying the locus of underperformance, the specific needs of disadvantaged students and the support needed to improve outcomes. Finally, this paper attempts to address this by discussing a pilot project focused on identifying and addressing disadvantaged students’ needs and the challenges and opportunities this raises.

Key words:

Disadvantaged students; Pupil Premium; Attainment gap; Intervention and TEST

Faizaan Ahmed
Oaks Park High School, London Borough of Redbridge

Pages 18-22

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Abstract:

This article is an account of fieldwork carried out in a school in East Sussex, in the south of England, with a group of 10- and 11-year-old children, to discover whether they perceive social class in a selection of children’s fantasy fiction texts. The methodology will be described, and there will be a discussion of the initial findings. I am grateful to University of East London’s School of Arts and Digital Industries for the funding that enabled me to buy the books used in this research.

Key words:

Reading; Comprehension; Social class; Primary education

Alison Baker
University of East London

Pages 23-28

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Abstract:

In the Geography and Literacy connection, National Geographic Education online edition, Christina Riska (2013) asks the question ‘What do you think of when you hear the word literacy? Depending on what you teach, chances are geography is not the first thought that comes to mind. But believe it or not, geography and literacy naturally share many similarities. In addition, you can deepen student’s learning in both Geography and literacy when they are integrated in the curriculum.’ This paper considers through action research how developing subject literacy in secondary school geography lessons can enhance pupil’s subject knowledge and the understanding of key concepts in Geography.

Key words:

Subject literacy; Subject knowledge; Geography; Strategies; Teachers' actions

Vivienne Eka
University of East London

Pages 29-34

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Abstract:

An investigation and self-analysis of the process of reflection and teaching will be evaluated from an individual early careers academic perspective. In the higher education sector it is imperative that lessons are revisited to ensure that the methods of teaching applied are flexible and develop positively (Schön 1983), in conjunction with the student’s complex needs, helping to achieve academic praxis for both learners: the teacher and the student (Brookfield 2017). Pedagogical practice will be considered as an ontological continuing process of academic progression using ‘The Four Lenses of Critical Reflection’ framework (ibid.) to identify good reflective and reflexive teaching. Consideration of positive, realistic and effective teaching practices which can be applied to make necessary improvements will be examined. The title progressive teacher implies the implementation of good flexible teaching practice that aligns with student learning and assessment outcomes.

Key words:

Progressive teachers; Reflective practitioner; Critical pedagogy; Reflection,; Learning and teaching.

Lisa Taylor
University of East London

Pages 35-40

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Abstract:

This article presents findings from a small-scale qualitative case study exploring how engagement with seminars might prompt a sense of community amongst students. Further, it considered if such engagement might afford students ‘seminar capital’, a form of academic social capital (Bourdieu 1977 in Preece 2010). The study also aimed to uncover how seminar pedagogy can support students to develop their academic voice and connect with others in learning communities. Reflecting on emergent learning (Bourner 2003) supports students to move between a range of language codes (Preece 2010). Students in the study reported that seminar discussions supported their conceptual understanding, consolidated their academic language skills and offered opportunities to apply their knowledge to their assessments. This took place within an emerging positioning of relationships between peers and lecturers.

Key words:

Social capital; Seminars; Non-traditional students; Emergent learning; Language codes.

Micky Levoguer, Ben Taylor, Rebecca Crutchley
University of East London

Pages 41-46

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Abstract:

This paper considers the scope of initial teacher training (ITT) programmes at UK universities and the extent to which they prepare teachers to empower learners outside of mainstream, compulsory schooling. Education is widely considered as a human right and an essential tool for social mobility, with the power to ‘enrich human capabilities and change behaviour’ (Cohen 2011: 4–5); in this paper, we explore the limitations of that in reality, considering educational provision, opportunities for funding and attitudes towards adult education. The paper compares attitudes towards school education and prison education, examining the potential for greater cohesion and the importance of rehabilitation. We draw on evidence from the literature; our own experience as ITT students and, subsequently, secondary school teachers; and a collaborative trainee teacher and prison learner programme between the School of Education, University of East London, and the prison HMP Isis. The paper concludes by discussing the potential for future, more inclusive ITT programmes which consider the role of education outside of schools, the implications of this and recommendations for the future.

Key words:

Prison Education; Teacher Education; Empowerment; Adult Education; Access to Education; Privatisation.

Laura Warner, Burntwood School
Jade Schwarz, Queensmead School

Pages 47-52

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Guest Author

In every edition of Research in Teacher education we publish a contribution from a guest writer who has links with the School of Education and Communities at UEL.

Professor Ann MacPhail is Assistant Dean Research in the Faculty of Education and Health Sciences and a member of the Department of Physical Education and Sport Sciences at the University of Limerick, Ireland. Ann’s research interests include the professional learning needs of teacher educators, practices in teacher education programmes, self-study, curriculum and instructional models in physical education and assessment. Ann is a Council member of the International Forum for Teacher Educator Development (InFo-TED). In this article she reflects on the impact Covid-19 might have on teacher education and the extent to which the pandemic reinforces and/or challenges her notion of what it means to be an effective initial teacher educator.

 

Professor Ann McPhail

University of Limerick

Pages 53-56

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Book Reviews

Editors: Mark Fox, Tom Laverty and Sanchita Chowdhury:
London: Routledge, 2019
ISBN:978-0-367-32136-9

Supporting the emotional well-being of children and young people with learning disabilities is a timely and very well-intentioned book. It outlines a structured, three-part ‘emotionally able’ approach to supporting the emotional well-being of children with severe and complex learning difficulties. Each of the main chapters of the book is devoted to one of the three stages of this approach as follows: initial engagement; developing an emotionally supportive classroom; and supporting the individual child. 

The inspirations for this concept are principally the work of the Belgian early years education academic Ferre Laevers, as well as John Bowlby’s attachment theory, but the authors also draw on their own extensive and varied experience in a number of relevant fields including teaching in both mainstream and secondary schools, residential social work and child psychology. 

The key strengths of the book include its definition of well-being from an international policy perspective, in the first chapter; and its insistence on the key and unambiguous obligation of schools to support young people’s emotional needs. Having stressed this in the early chapters, the book offers a wealth of ideas and activities which the class teacher and the leadership team can use to support pupils who are emotionally vulnerable; although a few of these are presented in ways that a busy classroom teacher may find time-consuming, and possibly confusing, such as where classroom strategies are ‘divided into three key areas ... each of these areas are then divided into three categories, each with three sub categories’(p. 44). However, the suggestions in chapter 2 for ‘auditing the present situation’ are innovative, focusing on ‘what has been working well’ and ‘where the children have surprised you’, and the paragraph in the overview of classroom strategies on ‘feeling loved’ is refreshing and important. 

Chapter 3, ‘Supporting the individual child’, is the longest and, in general, the most successful part of the book. It clearly identifies many of the reasons why a child might be emotionally distressed and includes a coherent and accessible discussion of attachment theory. By advising staff to ‘imagine what a child might say’ and ‘imagine yourself in his shoes’, it shows quite an original approach to identifying the causes of emotional distress in a non-verbal child with complex needs, and the ‘how/how’ approach to generating strategies would be an exciting and accessible initiative for any class team to try out. Crucially, and again, very refreshingly, the book also emphasises that ‘in order to support and address the emotional needs of children ... the emotional needs of the school staff and class teams must also be supported’ (p. 76). 

There are templates and proformas within the book to support the teacher to adopt a structured approach. Of these, the ‘individual profile of emotional well-being’ is one of the more useful and accessible, employing a clear Likert-scale approach, whilst acknowledging that ‘differences in scoring are not unexpected’ (p. 80). However, as with all the templates and proformas in the book, it would be more useful if they were available as copiable documents in an appendix or via a download link. 

The book is not without its flaws and contradictions and three of these are particularly surprising in a book so rooted in the wide practical experience of the authors. In the very first chapter, ‘The background to Emotionally Able’, ‘IQ’ is referenced when seeking to define children with learning difficulties even though this measure has not been used in an educational context now for many years and is largely seen as unreliable. Similarly, references to ‘developmental age’ and ‘adapted Early Years Curriculum’ are not in line with current thinking, which emphasises the importance of treating a child with learning difficulties as the age they actually are. Lastly, an important, and otherwise very valid, subsection of the book on managing transitions out of class for a child who might find them emotionally challenging is undermined by what appear to be overly behaviourist suggestions such as ‘blocking any opportunity to run’ and ‘preventing any movement in the wrong direction’. 

It is also unusual, in an otherwise very contemporary book that devotes a lot of its early pages to international policies around well-being, to find hardly any references at all to key post-2015 UK policies and practices such as the statutory Special Educational Needs and Disabilities Code of Practice; Education, Health and Care plans; annual reviews; person-centred planning; or the key role of the SENCO.
Setting aside these weaknesses, this is a book that most teachers new to working with pupils with complex needs, and some more experienced ones, will find very useful. It contains some real nuggets of wisdom such as: ‘Emotionally able even if learning dis-Abled’ (p. xviii) and ‘the first step in creating a whole school approach is to develop a shared understanding’ (p. 24). Above all, it is packed full of useful strategies and suggestions and is well worth reading, if only for the final long main chapter on ‘Understanding an individual child’, and the postscript ‘It takes a village to raise a child’ which is so wise and interesting that one wonders why it wasn’t placed at the beginning.

Review by Andrew Colley, former senior lecturer in special education, University of East London

Pages 57-58

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Author: Jacques Rancière, translated and with an introduction by Kristin Ross
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1991
SBN: 978-0-804-71969-8

This book tells the story of Joseph Jacotot, a lecturer in French literature at the University of Louvain (Leuven) in the early nineteenth century. Jacotot’s ‘intellectual adventure’ began with an obligation to teach French to Flemish students, whose language he did not share. Rancière tells us that Jacotot assayed a small ‘philosophical experiment’ (p. 2), the success of which was to yield a pedagogical-philosophical framework that posed a serious challenge to established ‘truths’ about the nature of teaching and learning. 

Without a language in common, Jacotot sought a link between ‘master’ and pupils and found it in a Flemish–French bilingual edition of Telémaque by François Fénelon, which he gave to his students. He then tested them on their understanding of French, later setting them written tasks in French. The results exceeded all his expectations. With no common language, Jacotot was deprived of the ability to explicate the material for his students, so they had, through their own effort and will, begun to learn the language. From this, Jacotot came to the radical conclusion that explication was not the solution to the ‘problem’ of learning, but the very source of that problem, hypostatising the relation of inequality between master and pupils. 

‘... [E]xplication is the myth of pedagogy, the parable of the world divided into knowing minds and ignorant ones ...’ (p. 6). This conclusion provided the foundation for the ‘lessons in intellectual emancipation’ ‘taught’ by Jacotot, and Rancière, in what the latter declares to be a narrative interpretation of the former’s work. For fittingly, as Kristin Ross suggests, this is not an ‘explication’ by Rancière of Jacotot’s texts but ‘an act of storytelling’, presuming ‘an equality of intelligence’ between interlocutors, rather than ‘an inequality of knowledge’ between superior explicator and inferior receiver of that explication (p. xxii). What matters instead is will; the master’s task is no more than to set the conditions in which that will may best be exercised, and to verify the results of the students’ study as the outcomes of serious attention to the task. 

Upon this base, Jacotot, according to Rancière, elaborated on the principle of ‘universal teaching’, i.e. all students can learn, and all teachers can teach, anything. A peasant being illiterate does not mean that he cannot teach his son to read. What is important is that the father can verify that his son has given his full attention, and that consequently he has sought to eliminate errors in the process. ‘Man [sic] is a will served by intelligence,’ wrote Jacotot; and Rancière continues: ‘it is the lack of will that causes intelligence to make mistakes. The mind’s original sin is not haste, but distraction, absence’ (p. 55).
One can see Rancière’s emancipatory, egalitarian trajectory. As Ross writes, the context of Rancière’s intervention was the cultural-political environment of post-1968 France. Pierre Bourdieu, in the process of identifying the cultural capital and habitus that perpetuated the hegemony of the bourgeoisie/intellectual over the working class, served only, according to Rancière, to affirm that perpetuation. By giving primacy to will over intelligence, Rancière – through Jacotot – seeks to abolish the prevalence of hierarchies in determining intelligence, fixing upon that which is common to all and essential to our capacity to grow, learn and know ourselves as fully emancipated individuals. ‘The virtue of our intelligence is less in knowing than in doing ... But this doing is fundamentally an act of communication’ (p. 65). 

Rancière, like Gramsci and Freire, was concerned with giving due recognition to the work and intellectual capacity of those who occupied subaltern positions in society. He also drew upon the philosophical resources of Sartre and Marcuse’s existentialism. For Rancière, ‘Man [sic] thinks because he exists’ (p. 62), and thinking, therefore, is not a special category of activity attainable only by those who, in the process of gaining the ‘superior’ power of thought, then deny it to those ‘inferior’ to them. Rather, thinking is something that we do, and through expression – through acts of ‘translation and counter-translation’ (p. 69) such as those being carried out by Rancière himself in relation to the words of Joseph Jacotot – we come to an understanding between equals. This, for me, is the main ‘lesson’ of this book, and the reason I find it valuable. 

Review by Stephen Palmer, University of East London

Page 58

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